WASHINGTON — The federal government runs out of money Friday at midnight but congressional leaders were still negotiating with the Trump administration on the details of a $1.3 trillion spending bill Tuesday.
“Most of the issues focus on border security issues,” White House Legislative Affairs Director Marc Short told reporters after a meeting with Senate Democrats Tuesday morning.
Short said the outstanding disagreements include: funding for border security, an increase in detention beds to hold undocumented immigrants, and legal protections for undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children.
Lawmakers were also haggling over several other contentious items, including proposals to address gun violence and funding for a new rail tunnel under the Hudson River into New York’s Penn Station. Trump opposes that project in his home state, but it enjoys bipartisan support in Congress.
The bill must be passed by both the House and Senate and signed by President Trump before Saturday, or there will be another partial shutdown of federal agencies.
Democrats and Republicans agreed on top-line spending levels in February, when they approved a sweeping budget deal and a short-term funding measure to keep the government open until midnight March 23.
Short said over the weekend President Trump made several offers on immigration, including a short-term immigration fix that would include $25 billion to fund the president’s promised wall along the southern border in exchange for temporary protections for recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, through September 2020.
A congressional source familiar with the negotiations, who was not authorized to speak on the record about details of the conversation, confirmed that Trump did make such an offer Sunday. Democrats countered the administration’s offer with a request for a path to citizenship for the DACA eligible population in exchange for the $25 billion for wall funding, but it was rejected. The source said the conversation centered around that main offer.
“Just had a meeting with a variety of senators who seemed surprised that some of the offers made by the administration were rejected out of hand,” Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said after a meeting with Senate Democrats Tuesday.
Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat who met with Nielsen and Short, said he would probably be open to a short-term deal, pending details.
“I would favor any solution that affords at least some security and peace of mind for the DREAMers so that they are alleviated of the anguish and uncertainty of their present situation,” Blumenthal said. “I was in favor of a path to citizenship with funding for a wall if necessary and I would probably favor a short-term solution for three years of funding.”
Later Tuesday, Blumenthal spokeswoman Maria McElwain addressed the Trump offer specifically.
Se said Blumenthal “would certainly not accept $25 billion for a short-term, 2.5 year DACA patch.”
The Obama-era DACA program which protected nearly 700,000 “DREAMers” from deportation, was suspended by the president last fall but a court has ruled the program will remain in place at least through the fall. Democrats say the court ruling does not take away the urgency and there needs to be permanent protections for the group.
House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., told reporters on Tuesday he hoped that bill text would be released Tuesday but said there were “some unresolved issues.”
One of the provision lawmakers say is unlikely to be included was a GOP health insurance bill. Sponsors say the plan would stabilize the Obamacare health insurance markets and help extend coverage. But Democrats argued it would further restrict access to abortion.
Republicans pushing the legislation were hoping to get it added to the spending bill. But Democrats, who had been negotiating with Republicans to produce a bipartisan insurance bill, said they were blindsided by the GOP proposal and were shocked to find out that it included abortion language that was not part of their discussions. Rank-and-file Republican lawmakers told reporters that the Democrats’ balking meant the legislation would not be included in the spending bill. Many conservatives also didn’t support the legislation because they said it was a bailout for insurance companies.
The fiscal year for 2018 began Oct. 1, 2017, but Congress has failed to pass a long-term measure to fund federal agencies — relying instead on five stop-gap measures to keep the government open. There was a partial shutdown for several days in January when a short-term spending bill expired with no agreement on an extension. Another disagreement led to lapse in funding for just a few hours in February, but it was resolved quickly enough that it did not disrupt government services. That deal extended funding through Friday.
Contributing: Michael Collins
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